Two million American children have at least one parent in jail or prison.

Since 1970, the number of incarcerated parents has risen by 400%.

In the wake of those staggering statistics are children who become the invisible victims – facing emotional and physical turmoil, and financial hardships. While the adult is the one serving time behind bars, their children often find themselves cut off from the lives they desire. Yet there are local organizations working to implement change. In Allegheny County, where an estimated 8,500 children have incarcerated parents, new programs are improving family relationships and child outcomes, while educating the public and decision makers. WQED’s initiative hopes to shed light on a topic that is often ignored, but impacts so many.

Full Documentary

Community Forum

Please watch and share these short videos which feature children, incarcerated parents and advocates for change.

“I had to tell them he was in jail.”

The children of prisoners have long been a forgotten population. As many as two million children are feeling the absence of a mother or father, because that parent is behind bars.

“It’s only an hour, but I treasure it.”

When a parent is incarcerated, it is important but difficult to keep the parent-child bond. Family advocates are working to facilitate the connection.

“They’ve disappeared.”

As the prison population grows, so do the numbers of children who are growing up without a mother or father. Child advocates say this troubling trend must change.

“Keeping Families Connected”

A Pittsburgh non-profit is working to close the geographical gap, offering transportation so that families may visit their incarcerated loved ones, no matter the distance.

This project was made possible by:

The Pittsburgh Foundation logo

WQED thanks our community partners:

Amachi Pittsburgh
Wesley Family Services
Allegheny County Jail
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Allegheny County Court Family Division

Discussion Guide

Keep the conversation going. Our discussion guide is designed to help families talk about the issues raised in Serving Time, Too.

Serving Time, Too Discussion Guide

Additional Resources

Amachi Pittsburgh
Empowering young minds to overcome the challenges of parental incarceration.

Wesley Family Services
Transportation to prisons.

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Committed to facilitating positive interactions and outcomes for fragile and impaired parent-child relationships

Pittsburgh Mercy
A person-centered, population-based, trauma-informed community health and wellness provider